Do you love indie platformers like Hollow Knight, but also classics like Super Mario 64? If so, Robi Studios' Blue Fire is definitely for you. The game shares a similar aesthetic to both those platformers, yet seems to take influence from classics such as Metroid and The Legend of Zelda. However, summarising Blue Fire in this way would be dismissive, taking it just as a collection of influences. Whilst it is derivative of these games in some ways, it is transformative as well, becoming something fresh for fans of such classics.
In Blue Fire, you explore the ruined kingdom of Penumbra, whilst mastering combat and movement across a wide range of environments, even within the cavernous setting. You can explore Blue Fire on PC or Nintendo Switch. We played on PC with an Xbox 360 controller, but the mouse and keyboard controls are robust as well.
You explore the ruins of Penumbra as Umbra, a ninja-like character with great mobility. From the game's start he can jump and 'dash' forward a fair distance, but as you get further through the game's temples you gain the ability to run across walls, double jump, double dash, and spin attack. To match this, the game's environments become more complex as you progress, even encouraging some backtracking to obtain secrets. There's also side-quests, spirits you can equip to change the way Umbra moves or fights, and entrances into The Void.
The Void was one of my favourite features from the game, somewhat resembling shrines from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. As you explore the temples and various other areas of Penumbra, you will come across Voids, taking you to short platforming challenges which range from one star to five stars in difficulty. One-star Void levels can mostly be accomplished without any of the extra abilities previously mentioned, whilst five-star Void levels will require skillful use of all of them. It's worth noting that some of these can be accessed before you have the abilities that are meant to be required for them, and occasionally they're possible in this case, although difficult. This was a little frustrating, as towards the beginning you are encouraged to complete Voids when you find them, yet you'll shortly after come across a Void level which would be much easier to complete with an ability like the double jump, for example.
I ended up spending an hour on one Void level, almost breaking my controller in half (I'm pretty bad at platformers) then realising after seeing some tutorial text in one of the loading screens that I should probably return when I had more abilities. As such, it could be an idea for the star difficulties to be better explained to the player, or warned if a Void level will be very difficult with their current abilities.
Combat in Blue Fire is varied, with a multitude of colourful enemies to fight as you explore Penumbra. Umbra's movement is put to an alternate use in combat, as his jumps and dashes find new purpose in avoiding enemies and rushing in aggressively to cut enemies down. In the early game, enemies are fairly difficult, as you're not super mobile at first and they often two or three-shot Umbra, forcing you to retreat and use a fire spirit to recover. Spirits can be equipped to customise the way Umbra fights, increasing his attack range, causing him to recover health on each kill, as well as modifying his movement. Key items like the Flame Charm are also acquired as the game progresses, allowing for interesting approaches to combat through a ranged attack, but items like the shield are more straightforward in their usage.
Enemies are incorporated smoothly into the game's platforming, often acting as obstacles of sorts. The bosses, although interesting in design, were often easy and somewhat of an anti-climax at the end of a difficult temple. The Forest Shrine's boss was notable for this, going down in only a few attempts in comparison to the many, many attempts I had at the platforming leading up to it. Annoyingly, when dying against the bosses and in the temples, you will usually be thrown right back to the start of the temple, forcing you to re-do certain segments, although this could be seen as a fair punishment for a game over.
In terms of presentation, Blue Fire's somewhat gloomy cell-shaded style perfectly fits, although its understandable if it's not to everyone's taste. Particle effects are notably excellent, especially in combat. The variety of locations on display in Penumbra (a forest, a graveyard, and caves of lava just to name a few) are all beautiful. The music is also a great fit, even if it's a little forgettable outside of the boss theme and title screen theme.
The game's story is somewhat cryptic, with lore expanded on in diary entries and conversations with NPCs. The plot is fairly simple, as you have to go to different temples to free them of corruption in a way undeniably reminiscent of Zelda titles, but the game's presentation of lore is closer to the Dark Souls series.
Overall, Blue Fire is a game well worth playing for fans of classic platformers and adventure games and is a fair bit more difficult than the classics as well. You'll enjoy your adventures in Penumbra, just be sure to keep calm when faced with the more difficult Void levels!
Loading next content